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Free Photographers; The Myths.

Over various forums I have seen posts slating free photographers. Here are my 25cents...

Never use a free photographer if he/she does not have some examples of work.

Why are they free? Probably (as in my case) I do not have a name so want to build a portfolio and a name. It does not mean I am not any good, not going to provide you with images you will be happy with, or a service. As my brother says, treat all the jobs the same, it's called professionalism from the little to the large.

Should I use a free photographerIt could be a risk, it could be the best thing you've done. Check portfolios 1st, meet with them to see if they instill any confidence, ask them questions about equipment, research what they say.

If you have the budget for a photographer, I would more than probably pay for one, there are a range of prices out there. Personally, I think I am better than some people who charge and can't believe some people pay for certain photographers services.

Free photographers suit the needs of the couple. Budget e.t.c. If you can't afford a photographer, then of course use a free photographer, there are plenty of them out there. It's not a risk, because without one, there would be no images.

I think there is risk involved when you can actually afford a photographer but choose a free photographer. Again, I repeat, view portfolios, meet with them beforehand. Just because they are free, does not mean they aren't any good or aren't going to be professional.



  • This is an interesting thread. I got married in October and used a free photographer who was setting up on her own and needed experience. I was very happy with how everything worked out, but i definitely followed the "no risk" rule.

    Sorry if this is long but maybe it's useful to someone.

    It became apparent really early on that we were never going to afford a photographer! Luckily we've got a lot of friends and family who are amateur photographers and we knew we'd be ok and end up with plenty of nice shots. However what worried me was that I didn't want to feel as if we were putting our friends in a difficult position where they couldn't relax and enjoy the wedding because of us demanding photoshoots (!) or that maybe i would suddenly come over all bridezilla after the wedding because i didn't like any of the photos.

    So when we saw someone advertising free photography we thought we had nothing to lose. It was about nine months before the wedding. We had a look at her portfolio, she was very friendly and nice and had recently got married herself so knew how we were feeling.

    We had wedding insurance which would cover us as long as we had a proper contract, and so between us and michelle (our newfound photographer) we wrote up a contract stating that we would pay her mileage and allow her to use all our images in her promotional material and online, in return for a full days photography, a copy of the photos on CD. If we wanted her to put together an album that would cost more, but we were happy with just the digital images. We also checked up Michelle on the SWPP database and made sure she had insurance for her own equipment etc. I think i may have come across as a control freak at this point but she was very professional and friendly!

    Well Michelle did a fantastic job of our pictures in the end, and we also have our friends shots as an alternative view of the day. Our final album that we'll make ourselves will probably by 80% Michelle's pictures and 20% others.

    Well i guess in conclusion i would say if you don't have the money to afford a photographer, and if you have some mates as backup on the day, then go for it! You can get a professional service and it frees up money for other things which are maybe more important to you.

  • A happy ending then image

    I will say the SWPP allows anyone to join (don't quote me on that, I think you can just pay be a member)

    I would look for Royal Photography Society Membership. Although not a member, I have been told by members I should apply. I think depending on RPS level, these are the qualifcations which have merit..
  • Usually when someone offers free wedding photography they are starting out in building a portfolio. Which is perfectly understandable.

    'Free' soon becomes a problem though for the following reasons:

    No motivation to turn up. It's not ebay, you can't leave feedback, they don't have to speak to you ever again if they decide they had too much to drink the night before.

    As they are offering free photography they may get approached multiple times for the same date. The photographer isn't making you a selfless offer, if the venue is better for their portfolio you could get dropped or in one case asked for payment nearer the date.

    If they bite off more than they can chew, (as in take 12 free bookings over a few months) they will quite possibly start to resent all this free work they're doing and it will show. It isn't just turning up with a camera burning to cd and leaving. There's usually a few days work involved too and again motivation rears it's head.

    Would you do it?

    When I started off I was £200, then I went up from there, if a couple can budget for the ceremony, the wedding breakfast, dj etc then then can budget for a photographer. The photos are all they will have afterwards apart from a change in tax code, a certificate and fond memories. Things like this always seem a good idea at the time.

    Free photography is a risk, please take this as a given as I've heard lots of horror stories amongst the positive ones.....Vicars stopping proceedings because of rudeness, images never turning up, photographer never turning up, lateness, watermarking the images when they said they wouldn't and charging etc.

    It is a lot down to who you pick as well. Doesn't matter if it's free or not, treat them the same way as if they were being paid. Ask them probing questions, if they care about what they do they will be very impressive when they meet you etc.

    Free photography = BE CAREFUL

  • 2BWed20112BWed2011 Posts: 2,209
    I agree with Chris... I was screwed pretty badly by my original photographer and had to rearrange everything to be able to afford a new one. And I was paying her! Just not very much.
  • All the things you mention Chris can still happen with a photographer you have paid.

    There was a possible case where a lady paid for a photographer based on his portfolio and the results were nothing like what she had seen. Had the photographer stolen images, who knows, but it sounds like a possibility.

    There are cowboys in every field.

    Paying in advance for something is always a risk, which is the case for wedding photography.

    You have no idea what you are going to get on the day...

    This is why you meet with the photographer beforehand.

    The problem I also see with offering cheap photography is, people always question why so cheap, so you are still left with all the same issued that you posted.
  • Im doing free photography this year (to build up my portfolio) I'm going to turn up to everyones wedding, it's the most important day of their lives image x
  • I disagree.

    Professionally, photographers in their initial stages are amatuers but by starting somewhere also end up professionals.

    If someone is 'bad' or inclined to do no shows then 99% of the time won't make it to pro level because that behaviour is part of their personality. With wedding jobs being a lot to do with word of mouth they fail, fast.

    Even if it were the case that something was to go wrong with the professional photographer they will almost always have a backup, a contract, insurance and someone they can call on so the bride receives something of quality (whilst also refunding them in full). I know that's how I work.

    In my contract it clearly states if I can't make it for something like ill health (as in hospitalisation), swarm of killer bees or act of god the couple are entitled to a full and immediate refund of monies paid.

    If you pay someone you can claim the money back, with free photography you get nothing.

    A lot of newbies to the craft think it's easy (and there are hundreds, possibly thousands of them), they fill their books with free stuff and realize it's not for them. Then they let the bride down a few months before their day when most decent togs are booked up.

  • I am doing free photography for weddings at moment however will only take on 1-2 wedding per month. Have done 12 so far in last year.

    As a fashion and portrait photographer I do not need the money from wedding to make a weekly living, and strangely enough am covered by insurance in same way a pro is covered. There is no rush to taking paid work. For my first few weddings I actually had to take studio work with me to show clients, and was booked on the quality of that work even though not actual wedding.

    There is actually less risk of not turning up as do not want to get bad name in the initial stages and will actually drop committments a day before wedding to ensure prepared and go over wedding location.

    In addition I have worked alongside some pro wedding photographers and actually produced some better work which rather shocked me to be honest as I expected it to be other way around.

    Looking at some pro wedding photographer sites I was shocked to see just how many use models for their websites. The lesson here is that you need to check out their work and make sure they have examples of full weddings and not just random pictures.

    I agree with a lot of what has been said however at end of the day couple should check out photographers pictures.

    Free means you are not paying for photographer's time and get CD of images to print yourself. If couple wants proper book then cost goes up signicantly.

    Some food for thought.....pros are competing for work in an aggressive market, at end of day they are trying to make a living like all the rest of us. No one likes weekend photographers who take business away from full time professionals. But there again everyone has a price and if photographer is competing for £500 then there is a reason for that.

    Check out photographer work in person and view actual prints not computer images which can be stolen.
  • I disagree with some of chris comments, apologies in advance..

    If a pro takes money in advance then refunds in full you still get nothing same as if a free photographer doesn't turn up due to illness.

    There needs to be backup plan, i.e second photographer which means less profits or increased cost therefore less risk for couple.

    I would be very angry if I booked pro for wedding then he didn't turn up and gave me my money back, I would probably throw it back him if last minute due to illness, there can be no forgivness for this miss on the biggest day of most couples lifes no matter what the circumstances, as he did not plan for all scenarios at couples expense.

    Bottom line, check it all out properly no matter if paid or not.

    I have seen some good sites with Q's all couples should be asking, research is key, most couples plan a year in advance so plenty of time to get it right.

  • I too disagree with Chris. I think there is a lot of scaremongering going on (not you Chris) professional photographers protecting their patch.

    The differene between a profession and amateur is a pro gets paid. I have seen many sites that I personally think are quite poor, yet these people are getting paid.

    As poster above. I would offer free service and to me, I am professional from start to finish as I am trying to build a name. I am doing a free wedding in 2 weeks, the reason being, the professional photographer decided to retrain as something else, gave back the money but left them in the lurch. So as above, even pros can decide it's not for them.

    Weddings are booked in advance, so who knows what is going to happen or the photographer is going to feel.

    Free photographer exists and will exist because it works and it can work just as well as pros. There are a lot of stories about pro messing up, not delivering e.t.c. Free photographers get a bad name.

    Research. I am offering a free service but I have pro equipment from start to finish. So check the photographer, treat them as if you are paying them, because they need you as much as you need them. I met with my clients and I am on hand to answer any questions they have, I am not forcing them to go with me, but giving them confidence in me...
  • It is also a sad fact that some use fake images as examples of their work.

    Insist on seeing full albums, in person.

    'If a pro takes money in advance then refunds in full you still get nothing same as if a free photographer doesn't turn up due to illness.'

    Agreed, that's probably irrelevant. I guess what I'm trying to say is, if you like gambling, don't be upset if you lose.

    I'm forever fixing images wedding images. It's good business I guess. One such photographer shot in Jpeg and manually set the white balance to Daylight.

    The images inside the church ended up bright orange and almost impossible to fix. The bride ended up sending me some shots of from her friends to make some sort of album...of 150 pictures.

  • Buggy forum
  • it was quite funny - both my friend and i are getting married a few weeks apart - different ends of the country - so we were looking at photographers. i was looking at a few and then she showed me one she had found in her price range - when i looked at them i though this is really weird i thought i had recongnized some pics and went back to one i was looking at and they both had the same pictures!!!
  • Again Chris.

    What does a full album mean. If I was going to go to create lengths to create and build a name the easy way, I'd spend a couple of hundred getting some albums made with pictures I've pinched.

    There is NO guarantee of anything. Same with builders, plumbers, mechanics e.t.c you just have to rely on the fact that most people are honest, but there are a handful out there and go with your gut.

    'I'm forever fixing images wedding images. It's good business I guess. One such photographer shot in Jpeg and manually set the white balance to Daylight.'

    Do you not think that could happen with a so called pro charging £300 just starting out??

    SOME FREE photographers starting out are a lot better than people out there charging. SOME aren't but you cannot lump all free photographers out there in the same boat, just as you can't with builders, plumbers e dot t dot c
  • 'I'm forever fixing images wedding images. It's good business I guess. One such photographer shot in Jpeg and manually set the white balance to Daylight.'

    This has been the case with so called pro's too.

    I am not sure what seeing an album would do? I could easily whip up a couple of albums for a couple of hundred to look a little more authentic if I was serious is fast tracking myself as a photographer.

    It's all based on an element of trust. A pro, although on the surface looks more professional and is more probable in getting the job done. You still don't know what you are getting on the day. It's like plumbers, builders, mechanics e.t.c

    There are some free photographers out there who I would deem better than some pros and some who give free photographers a bad name. There are also pros out there who give other pros a bad name

    It's down to personal choice. There MIGHT be a higher risk with a free photographer, but if budget is tight, you may as well give them a go as a photographer is better than no photographer.
  • 2BWed20112BWed2011 Posts: 2,209
    Just because these things happen with "pros" and "amateurs" alike does not mean what Chris is saying is wrong.

    The fact is that you risk a lot more agreeing to work with an amateur than a pro. They will have less experience, so might not know how to get the shots you want, or how to get people to relax enough to have a good photo taken. And it gets even more complicated if you want stylised photography like reportage or something.

    Also, because they aren't getting paid they do have less investment in making sure your images are perfect.

    And, if you pay a professional photographer who ruins the images of your wedding, you have significantly more legal recourse than if you just let someone with a camera take your photos.

    I have the utmost respect for amateur photogs, and I really hope the best for you... But I think it's a bit silly to try and sell the idea that you run just as much a risk hiring an established and recommended professional photographer, as you do hiring an amateur.
  • There are a lot of very good amatuer photographers out there.

    Darius, it's easy for someone to rip a few images off of a site however it's a completely different thing to find 700 high resolution images of the same wedding to show a couple.

    Nobody puts high resolution downloadable images online, not what I call high resolution anyway (3000 pixels on the long edge or greater).

    When I say albums I say images on their laptop, not 30 prints in an album.

    When I see a client I bring three of my most recent weddings, warts and all. Depending on the duration I was there the number of photos can range between 400 and 800 images.

    The couple needs to see as many photos as possible as to know my photos is to know me.

    Personally I have trouble understanding why anyone would take a gamble with the biggest day of their life with free photography. It leaves couples far too open to be let down in one form or another with no comeback.

    At my very first wedding, I forgot the rule of 'tallest at the back' and didn't get any formals of the bride and groom. Lots of other pictures of them were taken but I didn't really know what I was doing, where I should be or where I should be going to.

    When you're at a wedding, unexperienced, you can lose control and quickly, get flustered and forget things. Sure, the couple are always aware there is a potential for you to make mistakes but still, one major slip, one major error (such as the white balance mentioned earlier) can ruin it.

    A pro generally won't make those mistakes and if they did you have some recourse legally. A pro won't say 'I might screw up some of the shots'.

    Until you've done lots of weddings, seen the fallout from other photographers and how it effects the bride and groom nobody can understand how reckless going for an amateur truly is.

    If you can't afford it, go for a free photographer, if you can, pay, because it's really all you have afterwards.
  • Because many of us are photographers it means that photography is important to us obviously. You will get couples that are not interested at all and wouldnt mind if a family member are taking the photos.

    If people choose to have free photography, they know the gamble they are taking but maybe it's not that important to them?

  • Exactly MrsR.

    Client standards vary, you've only got to look at some posts on forums where people post their images and say they're amazing when in the eyes of a pro they're pretty poor.

    Then I'll have someone present me with another photographers images to fix which to be fair are pretty good overall.

    Everyones needs and standards vary.
  • OMG i know. I look at some peoples pictures and think oh dear, my nephew could of done better than that and he's 4.

    It's all difference of opinion, id never use a free photographer because im obsessed with photography lol.

    Im not looking to branch out permenantly into photography until 2013 now lol, decided i want to go travelling in between image x
  • MrsJKMrsJK Posts: 463
    Oh I might as well stick my six pence in image

    Im having Darius, as a second photographer. I think its great that he wants to build up his portfilio and if I get a few great shots then great! If I end up with nothing then I will build a bridge and get over it.

    A bride who employs a free photographer knows the risks, I can afford to pay someone, but those that really cant can take the chance

    There may be no formal place for feedback but I bet that those openly on a forum wouldnt take the chance of being rubbished in front of their client base image
  • I think what Chris is trying to explain isn't potentially coming across clearly, so please allow me to present this from another angle: (with utmost respect from Chris who is a great Photographer - love his work!).

    Due to the way the legal system is structured in the UK, if money does not exchange hands, then you have NO contract, regardless of whether bits of paper with signatures have changed hands or not. If you pay for travelling expenses, you still have no contract.

    If you have no contract, you have NO comeback.

    If you DO have a contract, you DO have comeback.

    If you have paid for your photos and are not happy, even if you do not have a contract (if money has changed hands, you have an 'implied' contract, even with no bits of paper signed) all you need to do is fill in a small claims form to your local court for a nominal fee, and this will enable you to take legal action against the person supplying the service. You do not need a solicitor. After this has been reviewed by the court, you will potentially be awarded a full or partial refund and possible damages compensation.

    The reason people offer 'free' photography is that legally you can not sue them, so it's a way of avoiding legal responsibility within the UK legal system.

    By paying someone, you actually PROTECT yourself, even if you only pay £1.

    Feel free to research contract law on the government website, and you'll gain an understanding of the legal system.

    So, whilst I was a newbie once, when I started out, not only did I charge, I explained to my customers that by charging a small fee, Not only was I covering my costs, I was actually taking legal responsibility for the work I was agreeing to, therefore, that could provide more reassurance to them.

    Hope that helps!

  • Contract,no contract. If a professional messes up, it's a lot worse than a free photographer. Free; the bride/groom have taken that chance and they know what they are in for.

    Paid, they expect the photographer to deliver and don't really want to fight it out in court or over the phone, they want thier pictures that they EXPECTED to get...

    People aren't stupid. They know what they are getting into with a free photographer, which is why, meet, view portfolios and see if they instill any confidence...It's a choice.

    I have never ever said always choose a free photographer. If it suits your budget and needs, go for it. Hell. I am doing a few free weddings, but I know no bride or groom would have gone with me unless :

    A)I knew them as friends and had some kind of photography portfolio

    B)I had a small sample of wedding photograhy already completed.

    Regarding B) this then shows I am up to the job...

    I have done 2 to date, 1 more to go and that will probably be it then, I am doing what I feel I need to do and to get enough of a portfolio to get going and show capability..

    People will ALWAYS choose free photographers if they exist, not all but many will and I for one am glad that couples have allowed me to photography thier wedding BASED on my existing portfolio...
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